The fifth round of I Am a Singer (나는 가수다) started with a splash with Insooni in particular leaving a gigantic impression on the audience and, likely, the viewers, but also highlighted some possible show format changes. While the singers were ranked on their performances of their original songs by the audience in the previous episode, as it was an introduction to the singers, it turns out that it would not be a round that counted towards their final vote.
Rather, the first official competition round begins with the second episode of the fifth round, where the seven artists bring in songs of their own choosing to cover.
It was a dramatic episode with quite a few surprises in store as well as another format change, bringing in a new permanent emcee to the show. Anna and I both watched the episode and you can see our mini recap and reactions after the jump!
All performances can be watched from Bugs Music’s special 나는 가수다. Click the tab saying “8월 28일 방송” to find the performances discussed below.
The Singers Arrive
rd: Jang Hyejin related an interesting story with her daughter; her daughter says that she’ll win gold medals, but she wants Jang to come home with one of the graduation trophies. Poor Yuna! She’s wearing a neck brace!
Anna: Oh, sounds like she’s had problems before. Stress related, apparently.
rd: Kim Johan comes in with a case full of some kind of drink amusingly branded with his singer-manager’s face.
Anna: Yoon Minsoo is so cute. Just like last time he slept close to the studio not to arrive late.
A New MC
rd: Ah, as I had hoped and suspected, the producers decided to get a dedicated MC to host the show from now on and not have one of the singers do it, which, as Anna noted before, was kind of awkward. The new MC is singer Yoon Jongshin, who I don’t really know.
Anna: 나도 가수다 (“I’m a singer, too”) – that’s funny! He’s been around for a couple of decades, but I can’t recall any song title of his. Maybe with the monthly digital single project he’s been running for the last year or so he’ll be able to earn a greater recognition with the younger audience.
rd: It’s an interesting list. Insooni is doing a cover of Jinju’s Korean cover (“난 괜찮아” of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”. Kim Johan’s got a classic ballad with Yoo Jaeha’s “사랑하기 때문에”, which is a perfect fit for the timbre of his voice. Jang Hyejin has a surprising choice in choosing the band Bank’s “가질 수 없는 너” as she’s noticed that men really like to sing it at the noraebang. Jaurim goes for none other than Panic’s energetic “윈손잡이”, which I’m not really sure is going to break their streak as it’s quite similar to the scattered energy of “Magic Carpet Ride” and I fear that the beloved band might end up going home after this round. Jo Kwanwoo approaches once 나는 가수다 singer Im Jaebum’s rock ballad “그대는 어디에”, which I think is also a good fit for his high-pitched singing style. Yoon Minsoo is the second to take a less expected song, picking Yuhjin’s ballad “그리움만 쌓이네”, but I think the female-to-male vocal transition won’t actually be too difficult for Yoon, based on his has performance. Bobby Kim has the most different choice, the only singer picking a idol pop song in Rain’s “태양을 피하는 방법”, although its R&B style isn’t too far from what the soul singer could adapt–but without Rain slick dance moves, will Kim be able to convey a strong performance?
Anna: Very exciting songs most of them. Curios to hear what they’ll make of them.
Rehearsal/Sound Check Time
rd: Bobby Kim relates an interesting story about how the lyrics connected with him when thinking about a past relationship he didn’t feel he could escape, so it might make the song quite personal for him. I imagine that will add an interesting dimension to his performance. But it looks like he’s having some conflict with his arranger, so that might also negatively impact the final song.
Picking the Order
rd: Another amusing moment as our new MC Yoon grabs a ball for Jaurim and correctly guesses it’s number five. Bobby Kim is called upon to pick Jang Hyejin’s ball and is asked to pick a seven. He picks a ball and it’s a seven!
Anna: Seems like the show is now sponsored by Vitamin Water. There’s been a bit too much of that already.
rd: It really seems like the pace has picked up for the show overall. We’re moving very quickly just twenty minutes in compared to previous episodes. They also cut out the audience interviews as well. And now we’re already to the performances! It also looks like the MC’s and singers have separate post-performance rooms again.
Yoon Minsoo’s “그리움만 쌓이네”
rd: He puts a lot of emotion into his vocals, which should go over well with the audience. It’s a spare arrangement that builds well, but I’m not really sold on the song. Two key changes in and a strong performance still hasn’t won me over. Singers really like doing the long pause near the end of the song on the show and Minsoo proves to be no exception. Well performed and I think very appropriate to a Korean mainstream audience, but not my thing.
Anna: He sounds too fragile to me at first. And those close eyes wouldn’t go well over with the Swedish Idol jury. It’s getting better though, but that rock whining is not convincing. I don’t really buy the Michael Bolton + Rod Stewart comparison either.
Insooni’s “난 괜찮아”
rd: People are already standing to applaud before Insooni even comes on stage. Dang, she comes in completely self-possessed. Insooni oozes charisma. I already know and love the song, so it’s really just up to Insooni to take the song and own it. And she starts in English–she would be the first to sing a verse completely in English in the show. She’s got great stage presence and engages the audience without much effort thanks to dynamite charisma. And now there’s a sax duet with a slow down in the song–a perfect setup to blow up again. Gospel chorus gives Insooni room to play with her vocals. She’s likely a top three contender without a doubt.
Anna: The English sounds good, but I don’t like the arrangement when it turns to Korean. Too funky. The audience seemed very excited to have Danny Jung on stage with his saxophone. Could he be “Korea’s answer to Kenny G”? Loving the key shift into a disco version. Very well sung throughout.
Jo Kwanwoo’s “그대는 어디에”
rd: I like Jo’s lower register voice a lot. And then he goes high. This is a really strong ballad in composition and Jo’s delivery is impressively emotional. I think he compares well to Yoon’s performance here and I actually like Jo a little better than usual here, but that might be because I like the song choice a lot.
Anna: Surprised to hear he can sing for real! And sorry it didn’t last longer. I was worried he’d ruin the song completely, but the song is better than that.
Bobby Kim’s “태양을 피하는 방법”
rd: The audience really likes the song choice–lots of cheering once it’s announced. He’s definitely made it his own song, backed by a gospel choir arrangement, but in the early part, it’s leaving me a little cold. He sings really well on the bridge. Ah, it picks up really well once he gets up off his seat and raps and sings together, like he often does with Buga Kingz. A good build up and I’m glad Bobby got up, but I wish he’d started a little stronger.
Anna: Bobby Kim and 태양을 피하는 방법 could be a good combination. Somehow it doesn’t sound right to me though. Perhaps it’s because his voice is wavering a bit more than Rain’s is when singing this song.
rd: Kim Yuna takes off her neck brace for the performance. I’m really worried here, but Kim Yuna’s on the piano, so that might add something to the performance. Kim Yuna is explaining how Lee Juck (of Panic) helped with the arrangements on Jaurim’s first album, especially with “일탈”. Interesting piece of musical history there. Lee Sungyu played his guitar with a bow, how interesting!
Anna: I love the bow. This is a very promising beginning. Builds expectations.
rd: And they really make the song a Jaurim song too. It starts really mellow with dramatic vocals from Kim before getting into the energetic portion. It ramps up well, but I worry that the song doesn’t have enough a climax to really capture the audience. The “nananas” of the chorus don’t really seem to make it, although the performance is very distinctively Jaurim and Kim Yuna’s scatting at the end adds a nice (needed) dimension to the song. And there’s a nice tempo boost to help too.
Anna: Sounds like a funkier version of Jaurim, of course aided by Common Ground. Kim Yuna is jumping and shaking her head. In spite of her neck she still gives her usual energy. Kim Yuna goes surprisingly deep on some of those “nananas”. A bit too deep, I’d say.
rd: Ha! And they roll into “일탈” briefly at the end of the song. Still, I worry that it might not be enough to save the band.
Kim Johan’s “사랑하기 때문에”
rd: Aw, Kim Johan dedicates the song to his late parents and especially his recently passed father, who liked to sing but wasn’t able to be a singer. It’s a really straightforward performance at the top. You know, I’m not immediately impressed with the song, but Kim Johan’s performance is winning me over, even as it’s not anything you wouldn’t expect from the Solid vocalist. He really seems to be putting himself into the song and capturing the lyrics well. I liked this much better than I expected.
Anna: Kim Johan covering Yoo Jaeha sounded like a fantastic combination to me. It’s a real classic. My expectations were too high, but the song does lift after a while. Well done!
Jang Hyejin’s “가질 수 없는 너”
rd: I think next to Bobby Kim, this might be the biggest gamble of the night. But it opens up pretty well and it’s quite a dramatic song, so it should do well with the audience. Jang’s voice is strong and she seems to be slipping into Lena Park’s place on the show now that she’s gone. It’s a nice build in the song although it doesn’t really feel like it has a strong climax, I really like how it moves along and the chorus gives Jang space to play vocally too. I think she did pretty well.
Anna: Considering the songs my expectations are really high for this one as well. It starts out very promising. I like it a lot, but her voice isn’t as strong as that of Kim Johan or Insooni. Still, she’s bringing it on! She’s good!
rd: 1. Kim Johan, 2. Insooni, 3. Jang Hyejin 4. Bobby Kim 5. Jaurim 6. Jo Kwanwoo 7. Yoon Minsoo
This wasn’t easy. I think that Yoon Minsoo and Jo Kwanwoo brought up the end for me and I actually favored Jo Kwanwoo more, probably thanks to the stronger song choice. I don’t really think that Jaurim really played to the kind of strength that would most please the audience, but they were a lot of fun. I just think that Kim Yuna’s vocal power wasn’t put to good use nor the bands flair for the dramatic. I still get goosebumps thinking about their first performance, but I don’t feel like this was substantially different from their other performances in terms of impact. I also think my bias in favor of them has resulted in me placing them above the two balladeers. Third and fourth place, I kept trading between Bobby Kim and Jang Hyejin, because both had daring and surprising performances, but I eventually gave third to Jang Hyejin because Bobby Kim’s performance was a bit uneven, taking a while to pick up and while I think it ended on a really strong note, the consistency wasn’t there. Finally, the top two performances for me were (obviously) Insooni and (surprisingly) Kim Johan. Insooni is a dynamite performer and oozes so much charisma that she’s easily a top pick, especially with such a well worn standard of disco, but Kim Johan won first place for me because he put such a strong potency of emotion into the song. That performance was very impressive to me and won me over in the end.
Anna: 1. Kim Johan 2. Insooni 3. Jang Hyejin 4. Jaurim 5. Bobby Kim 6. Yoon Minsoo 7. Jo Kwanwoo
Kim Johan was definitely number one for me this time, but picking between Insooni and Jang Hyejin is harder. Although as much as I loved Jang Hyejin’s performance Insooni is the better singer. Jaurim made the song more interesting than I’d expected, but the arrangement wasn’t really for me. Still it appealed more to me than Bobby Kim’s performance, that I think was a bit tainted by that horrible outfit somebody had put on him without considering that he isn’t really Rain I didn’t really care much for either Yoon Minsoo or Jo Kwanwoo, but Jo Kwanwoo only gave me a few seconds of singing I could actually enjoy so anything higher than 7 I couldn’t possibly justify.
rd: She seems stunned and surprised. I’m not so surprised myself, because she made an excellent choice of song, it was rather daring for the ballad singer to try it, and she performed it well. So, I think it was a deserved win. Well done, Miss Jang.
Anna: Very well deserved. Also good to see so soon that even with Insooni in the game (나만 가수다, as her “manager” put it) other singers still stand a chance.
rd: Wow! He gets second place again? In this case, I don’t really follow the audience, but I understand why it happened–because he sang emotionally and I think that the Korean audience really loves that. I can barely remember the song.
Anna: Not what I’d expected. Didn’t the managers all put him as #7?
rd: It would be difficult for Insooni to end up outside of the top three with her strength of performance.
Anna: That’s one of those songs that just always work, too.
rd: My personal favorite this round takes forth. I think it was a really subtle performance and the song itself was not particularly dramatic, so that’s not a surprise.
Anna: I had definitely thought his performance would take him higher, but competition is hard.
rd: I think his performance was a bit of a build and it did take him a while before he reached a strong point in the song when he really cut loose. Had the performance been stronger from the start, I think he might have done better. However, this is not far from where I thought he’d be.
Anna: I would’ve wanted to hear that a bit earlier as well.
rd: Well, it’s probably of small consolation to get sixth this round as they pulled a 6 and 7. Still, I liked Jaurim’s performance over both Jo Kwanwoo and Yoon Minsoo, so I’m glad that they weren’t last place. I think song choice really hurt the band in the end both times, as while the band does do uptempo music well, I think their strength is in capturing drama and that is what they’d especially do well for the mainstream audience, so while the fun uptempo numbers would do well for their core rock audience, I think more rock ballad type music like “Shining”, or even straight rock music, like “Vlad” would have been the kind of songs that would have better won over the audience. The drama in “고래사냥”, gave lots of appropriate space for Kim Yuna to utilize her strong vocals and creating a dramatic space for the band is what made it such a strong overall performance. Alas, the band went more for their fun songs, which plays very well to the crowd at musical festivals and Hongdae, but I think connects less with the broader audience.
Anna: Those fun songs never really worked well for me and I too think they’d benefit more from utilizing the mainstream appeal they do have. Hopefully they will consider this until next time.
rd: This is not a totally unusual place for Jo to find himself. He isn’t the most spectacular or versatile of the singers, and heavily relies on his falsetto style singing. But sometimes, especially when he’s pushed, he’s capable of finding a song and wrapping himself up in it. This was not one such case.
Anna: I’m relieved to see that the Korean audience agrees with me on Jo Kwanwoo at least this time.
Another Format Change?
rd: So they didn’t announce a departure today and the episode ended with the singers talking about having to do better next round, so it appears as they’ve changed to a three performance format, which means Jaurim is *not* out this round. I probably would have noticed them talking about it if I were paying better attention to what was being said. Anyway, Jaurim in particular has their work cut out for them as they will likely need to place first or second to be considerably safe from getting cut after the next round. I’m hoping that they make a sounder song selection next time (if they’re given the opportunity–the third round could still be a lottery assigned song). I was braced for the worst, but here’s another chance for Jaurim to win over the audience. Fighting!
Anna: Format change sounds good to me! I’m not so sure the last round will really count towards elimination (or so I hope) as this was 6R1. Maybe the new format has them singing their own songs as a warm-up and then the covers make up the actual competition? Or perhaps it’s just a one time thing since there were three new artists when this began. Glad Jaurim isn’t out already and we know from their first appearance on the show that they have what it takes to make it to number one as long as the song is right.